10 things to do in Torino
Don't let the old ideas about Turin -- which is really named Torino, the moniker by which the world will know the city for the 2006 Olympics -- Italy's first capital city, fool you. Sure, it's the home of Fiat, but Torino isn't all about factories and workers' housing anymore. In fact, Torino is one of Italy's hottest cities -- if not the hottest -- thanks to a thriving literary scene, a rockin' music scene, some of Italy's most famous night clubs and cafes, a host of fine film directors working in the city and more.
With its stellar view of the Alps to the north and west, its stunning baroque architecture and tons of parks -- more than in almost any other big Italian city --and, of course, the Winter Olympics in February, Torino is the place to be.
Sightseeing. This is a no-brainer, really. But from the Egyptian museum (second only to Cairo, as every good Torinese will tell you) to the Risorgimento (Italian unification) museum to the Royal Palace and the Palazzo Madama, Torino has fabulous museums. There are also great art museums and galleries from the Galleria Sabauda, which houses the art treasures of the royal Savoy clan, to the Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, the Museum of Contemporary Art at Rivoli, the Civic Museum of Modern Art, the Agnelli's art gallery at Lingotto and the temporary exhibits at Palazzo Bricherasio, there are tons of great places to see art in Torino, too.
That's to say nothing of the art found in the baroque churches, like the stellar San Lorenzo and the twin churches of Santa Cristina and San Carlo, among others, and the fabulous baroque architecture of Filippo Juvarra and Guarino Guarini, from the basilica of Superga to the rolling wave façade of Palazzo Carignano, which was home to the first Italian parliament. We could go on, but get yourself a good guidebook and hit the pavement.
Luckily, Torino has 11 miles of portico-covered sidewalks, so even if it rains, you're -- well -- covered. If you're looking to see the shroud, however, don't get your hopes up. It's brought out only once every 25 years and the bishop of Torino recently announced that a sporting event such as the Olympics was no valid reason to make an exception. You can see the chapel in the Duomo where the shroud is kept and there's also a museum of the shroud nearby.
Don't miss the cinema museum in the Mole Antonelliana, the mos distinctive building in Torino. You can also ride a breathtaking elevator to the base of the spire for a great view over the rooftops of the city.
Superga. Juvarra, architect to the Savoy court, built this lovely domed basilica -- which also houses the Savoy family tomb -- atop a hill high above Torino and visiting it affords stunning views in all directions -- over Torino, to the Alps to the north and west -- and over the rolling hills of the Monferrato to the east. A plane carrying the great soccer team Torino crashed into the hilltop in 1949 killing most everyone on board and you can pay tribute at the small Toro museum (open Sundays only) up there. Best of all, there is a railway to take you up there, so no car needed.
I Murazzi. Beneath the sprawling Piazza Vittorio Veneto are I Murazzi, built as support for the square above and serving as belowground storage, too. The storage areas open onto the promenade along the Po River and now house clubs, bars and restaurants that, weather-permitting, spill out on to the promenade. This is the heart of Torino's late-night life and is buzzing from about 10 or 11 p.m. until the sun comes up.
Bicerin and stuzzichini. Bicerin is the name of a layered espresso, chocolate and cream drink and is also the name of a café founded in 1763 and still dishing up this drink. Torino, like Vienna, is well known for its café culture. There are far too many fine cafes to name, but don't miss ones like Fiorio in Via Po (which has great gelato), La Drogheria in Piazza Vittorio Veneto and Café San Carlo and Café Torino in Piazza San Carlo. A table under the porticoes at Café Torino affords great views of the passersby who stop to step on the bull in the sidewalk for good luck as well as the cool neon sign above. During autumn and winter, the scent of roasted chestnuts fills the air.
Remember that the Torinesi love their aperitifs and from about 6:30 or 7, cafes line their counters with stuzzichini (bite sized snacks of all kinds), which are free when you buy a drink. A smart drinker can easily make a meal of stuzzichini by stopping at a couple places. The bars in Piazza Carlo Felice, for example, right in front of the Porta Nuova station, are loaded with stuzzichini, from little sandwiches to salmon to cold cuts, olives and more. Sidle up to the bar -- it costs a lot more to sit -- order a dry vermouth, a white wine or whatever you want and help yourself to the snacks.
Shop via Garibaldi. All of the ritzier shops, like Cartier, are under the porticoes of Via Roma and Via Po, but the pedestrian-only Via Garibaldi is lined with shops and is full of people after work. Lots of kids reminds that these are more the shops for the people. Books, clothes, CDs, jewelry and more, at (relatively) popular prices.
Book lovers, however, can find books everywhere in Torino. At the chain bookshops like Feltrinelli, at collector's and antiquary shops throughout the city and at the bookstalls -- like the ones along the Seine in Paris -- that line the porticoed Via Roma and Via Po. The stalls have books of all kinds, in all languages and of all vintages. It's a treasure hunter's dream. The city has long been a literary center -- its where Italo Calvino, Cesare Pavese, Friedrich Nietzche, Carlo Levi, Primo Levi, Natalia Ginzburg and others wrote much of their work -- and is currently home to a crop of young novelists like Giuseppe Culicchia, Enrico Remmert, Alessandro Baricco and Alessandra Montrucchio, to name a few.
Lingotto. The old Fiat Lingotto factory south of the city center (but easily reachable via public transport) is now home to the city's shopping mall, automobile museum, an art museum, a restaurant on the roof -- which is surrounded by a race track which was a testing ground for the cars made in the factory below -- hotels, a convention center and more.
Toro. You won't be able to get tickets to see Juventus, currently the top team in the city, but you'll be able to see a game by FC Torino, aka Toro, one of Italy's greatest teams historically. Toro last won the national title in the 1970s and has been splitting its time between the top league and the secondary Serie B ever since. Alas, Toro rarely has the funds to compete with the likes of Juventus, owned by Fiat's Agnelli family, and Milan, owned by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Italy's richest man. Brewers' fans should be able to relate.
For the real shopping deals, check out the markets. Porta Palazzo (open every day except Sunday) has vendors selling food and produce, flowers, clothes, kitchenware and more. The Balon (which means balloon in Piemonteis) is a flea market in full bloom every Saturday, selling all manner of bits and bobs, including antiques and jewelry. On the second Sunday of every month is becomes the "Gran" Balon, with even more vendors.
Eat food. Being of Piedmontese descent, perhaps this writer is biased, but there is no better cuisine to be had in Italy (although certainly ones as good). Piedmontese food is hearty and rich and is perfectly suited to Olympic visitors because it really shines in autumn and winter. If you go in February, you might still find a few white truffles around, but you'll definitely find a lot of awesome chocolate (Torino is one of Europe's chocolate capitals), great wine and a lot of dishes, like bagna caoda and agnolotti, that you won't see anywhere else on the boot.
Of course, if you have extra time, there are lots of great day trips, too. Asti and Alba, in the Monferrato and the Langhe, respectively -- two of Italy's most respected wine regions -- are easily reached by train and can easily fill a day trip with sights, shopping and sumptuous food, for example.
FunkiPorcini said: Italian Grissini and Olympics go great together on my sofa! It's foot long garlic bread sticks with the width of a pencil! You can get them at Sendik's and other upscale grocers! Or check Pasta.com for this and other REAL Torino products! Be sure to have your sound on so you can hear their Macarena/Macaroni song! You could eat these in Torino but they are available here! GO USA!
Mauro said: well done. A very nice article about Turin(Torino). It's not so easy to find similar ones on the italian newspaper or TV, except the local "La Stampa" (maybe they're coming to be worried about this new "queen" waking up after a long period)...the best compliments comes from international press, so you're always really welcome here. If you need photos about the city you can find (and use) them here: http://community.webshots.com/user/mauipm ciao.Mauro
Luca said: Good suggestions! An Italian journalist could hardly do better! I hope Americans will enjoy our hospital city in the future. See you in Torino and Go Toro !!!
enzo_tara said: Thank you for the nice article that you made . I hope that you coming in Turin to see others beautiful monuments and the famous sabaudi's castle. ps only the TORINO FC is the first team of soccer in turin Juventus has funs in Italy but in turin they are less than granata's team
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